Food Fight: Big Beef Challenges EPA Climate Change Finding

Last Updated Jan 4, 2010 2:21 PM EST

Big beef is worried about methane. Namely, the regulation of it by the Environmental Protection Agency, which determined last month in an official endangerment finding that emissions from methane, carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases are harmful to public health.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, or the NCBA, filed a petition last month in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the EPA's endangerment finding rule. The NCBA has asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn EPA's rule due to a lack of sound or adequate basis for making the finding of endangerment from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions," according the industry group's statement.

So, what is big beef's beef with the EPA finding?

Livestock emit methane gas the good old-fashioned biological way: burps and farts. Big farms mean lots of methane and the industry is concerned the EPA will soon start regulating the gas, and in turn, will mean either higher costs, lower production or both.

So, NCBA has attacked the EPA for inadequate analysis as well as the concept that humans have contributed to climate change, in the first place. Tamara Thies, chief environment counsel for NCBA, says it here:

"EPA's finding is not based on a rigorous scientific analysis; yet it would trigger a cascade of future greenhouse gas regulations with sweeping impacts across the entire U.S. economy," said Thies. "Why the administration decided to move forward on this type of rule when there's so much uncertainty surrounding humans' contributions to climate change is perplexing."
The NCBA argues the EPA's endangerment finding will allow the government to regulate GHGs from small and large sources including farms, hospitals, schools and office buildings. The industry group also says the rule would set the stage for citizens suits against large and small businesses.

The EPA has tweaked its permitting rules in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the government agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The EPA raised the permitting threshold established by the Clean Air Act from 250 tons per year to at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This means only large sources of GHGs have to report their emissions. About 14,000 coal-burning power plants, factories and refineries as well as 107 large-scale U.S. farms produce enough GHGs to fall under the proposed rules, the EPA has said.

One final point: House and Senate conferees made it official in October and approved an amendment to block agency efforts to require Clean Air Act permits for greenhouse gases emitted by livestock. The amendment, a small part of a $32.2 billion conference package to fund the EPA, Interior Department and Forest Service for fiscal 2010, says the EPA can not use funds to implement rules requiring livestock producers to obtain Clean Air Act operating permits for the biological emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.

For additional BNET Energy coverage of the EPA: